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Seminoles featured in Fort Lauderdale museum exhibitions

Charlie Cypress poles a dugout canoe in the Everglades in 1937. (Photo courtesy History Fort Lauderdale)

FORT LAUDERDALE — Two new exhibits by History Fort Lauderdale focus on the history and importance of boating in the area and the role the Seminoles played in it. In addition, a forthcoming third exhibit in November will feature the work of several Seminole artists.

“From Dugouts to Dream Yachts” is the museum’s new permanent maritime installation. It’s open now and was designed to be up and running before the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show that takes place Oct. 27-31. The exhibit chronicles the early contributions of the Seminoles, and also the marine pioneers and companies that later led to the city’s rise to yachting fame.

“Fort Lauderdale’s waterways are and always have been elemental to the success of our great city,” Patricia Zeiler, executive director of History Fort Lauderdale, said in a statement.

Daniel Tommie loaned the museum a small dugout canoe for the exhibit – about 5 feet long by 8 inches wide – a way to trace the line from the Seminoles through an ever-changing use of Fort Lauderdale’s waterways for travel, commerce and tourism.

Ellery Andrews, deputy director of the museum, said the installation also coincides with an auxiliary exhibit at the Galleria mall that runs from Oct. 11 to Nov. 1. The “Making Waves” exhibit will feature 40 never-before-displayed, hand-tinted, black and white and color photos and illustrations of the marine industry from the 1890s to the present. Included are images of Seminoles navigating waterways – including one of Charlie Cypress poling a dugout canoe in the Everglades in 1937. There are also aerial views of the Bahia Mar and Fort Lauderdale marinas, as well as images of the pre-construction of Pier 66 and of Broward marine and boat craftsmen.

‘Return to Self’

Further, several Seminoles are involved in a winter exhibition at the museum to correspond with National Native American Heritage Month in November. The museum will feature new contemporary works by Seminole artists in “A Return to Self: The Art of Healing – A Seminole reflection on healing through art and self-expression.”

“Reflecting on our realities in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic reveals a path to self expression, appreciation of the mundane daily tasks and a determination to provide the best possible care for self, family and community,” the exhibit description reads.

“Return to Self” runs from Nov. 21 to Jan. 9 with tours, an artist meet and greet and an artist panel discussion. Seminole artists involved in the exhibit include Erica Deitz, Brian Zepeda, Iretta Tiger, Corinne Zepeda, Tia Blais-Billie, Wilson Bowers, Jessica Osceola and Stephanie Hall.

The museum offers in person and online options for exhibits and related events. For more information, go to or call (954) 463-4431. History Fort Lauderdale is located at 231 SW 2nd Ave. The Galleria mall is located at 2414 E Sunrise Blvd.

Daniel Tommie loaned the museum a dugout canoe for the exhibit. (Photo Damon Scott)
Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at